Foreclosing On Trump

My mother was a Democrat and my father a Republican. They often said, laughing, that they "canceled each other out" at the ballot box.
10/25/2016 06:27 pm ET Updated Oct 26, 2017

I have deep Minnesota roots. My parents were married in St. Paul in 1940 and all of their six children, including me, were born there -- and most still live in the Twin Cities.

My mother was a Democrat and my father a Republican. They often said, laughing, that they "canceled each other out" at the ballot box.

My mother had powerful reasons for being a Democrat -- and her allegiance to Democratic causes. She was born in a tiny town in North Dakota called Wyndmere, in 1916. Her parents were the children of immigrants and their hard work resulted in a large successful wheat-producing farm. In the 1930's the Great Depression arrived, along with terrible dust storms in the Dakotas. The rich soil of the Red River Valley turned arid, no rain fell. My mother told her children how her father wept, fearing the farm would be lost to foreclosure.

In a stunning collection of moving prose pieces about this time ("Wyndmere Wind-rows") my mother mentioned a "savior", a politician who in 1932 ordered a moratorium on all home and farm foreclosures, Governor William Langer. "Wild Bill" Langer was a humanitarian liberal progressive, who supported an equal rights amendment, maternity leave legislation and the vote for eighteen- year-olds. He championed Native American causes and was an outspoken advocate of civil rights legislation.

Had Langer not "saved" the family farm, my mother would have been displaced, would never have met my father (at a community college in Wahpeton a few years later), nor would their children have been born. That refusal to allow seizures of farmlands ("a miracle" my grandmother had prayed for) made my mother a Democrat in the enduring tradition of the Minnesota Democratic Farm Labor (DFL) party -- for all 99 years of her life.

But though he acted in undeniably "Democrat" style, Governor Langer was in fact a declared Republican - giving the future a glimpse of a very different past "maverick" of the Grand Old Party, who was not a demagogue, a bigot, a misogynist, a bully, a xenophobe or predator.

My father, who founded a successful real estate business in Minnesota years ago, was also a member of a GOP built on beliefs vastly different than the party calling itself Republican today. He subscribed to the cornerstone principles: fiscal responsibility, separation of church and state -- and minimal government intrusion in individual affairs. Now that the party has been taken hostage by the Tea Party, a Mad Hatter's Tea Party is driving a topsy-turvy platform policy. The government is asked to invade the privacy of a woman's control over her own body and reproductive rights. Tax breaks for the obscenely rich, hand in hand with the NRA, smothers sane discussion of gun control. Donald J. Trump, once a happily self-proclaimed "NY liberal", spouts faux-evangelical slogans (O Number 2 "Corinthians"!) Right.

My father's father was a well-educated charming but unsuccessful entrepreneur and his mother, also highly-educated, was a schoolteacher. My father learned to "be Republican" from each parent's individualism -- his father's belief in private initiative and his Norwegian mother's stubborn homespun values.

Education was a priority for both my parents -- as it had been for their parents. They aspired to the middle class and made it.

I disagreed with my father a great deal growing up -- we argued over women's rights and fiscal "responsibility", in particular my own "lack of." Money was central to his sense of self-pride (schooled by the Depression) -- a worldview I did not share -- but he was not a real estate "vulture" like Trump, whose bragged-about bankruptcy "tactics" have left laborers unpaid after his many development schemes have gone south, whose entire greed-driven, inarticulate, self-serving, dishonest and vulgar life stands as a mockery to the grand traditions of either major party.

My father may have gotten a kick out of "The Apprentice" but I doubt if he could have seen Trump, as president of anything but his own pathetically-phallic towers.

I think about my mother's life and I know this to be true: if Trump had been Governor of North Dakota in 1932 instead of William Langer -- her family farm, along with the other family farms, would have been foreclosed upon, without remorse, as "good business" by Trump -- or more likely, he'd have bought up the foreclosed-on family farms -- all for the sake of profit, gathered into his famously tiny hands.

I like to imagine that, in this 2016 election, my mother and father, miraculously returned to life, would vote together for the first time, for the same candidate. And I would like to think that this candidate would be created in the tradition of the compassionate leadership of William Langer, Democratic Republican. I say thanks to Langer for saving my family's history - and my family. Yes, I'm with her.